what I’ve been reading

Books #55

My goal for 2020 was to read 150 books, which is usually doable for me. At this point, I am 10 books behind in order to reach my goal. I am thinking I won’t be making it this year. Oh well. Pandemic and all. There were some times this year where I could not focus on books and it was just too hard to read books. That’s ok.

Here are some of the good ones I read recently:

1 – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Excellent! Very well written, I loved the style and how the story was told by each person at the wedding. The atmosphere was perfect for a thriller/mystery: a remote, haunted island in Ireland with a crumbling castle remodeled to host guests. It felt like a cross between an Agatha Christie book and the movie Clue. It kept me guessing until the end, too. Very well done.

2 – When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

This book was amazing! So good, I would not change a thing. It was a well crafted novel, a slow burn that kept me guessing. The description was “Rear Window” meets “Get Out” and that is spot on. Sydney has returned to her mother’s home in Brooklyn after a nasty divorce and slowly realizes that something isn’t right. People are disappearing, but in weird ways, racism and gentrification is blatant and in your face, something dark and sinister is happening but she doesn’t know what.

The book is rich in history that most did not learn in history class. The story of redlining, gentrification, black people’s homes being stolen from them. The story is fascinating and horrifying and so well written.

3 – Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women by Lyz Lenz

This book is excellent! It came on my radar because I follow the author on Twitter and she is absolutely hilarious and smart and when her book came out, it sounded fascinating. Even if you are not pregnant, have never been pregnant, never plan to be pregnant, it is still a comprehensive, well-researched and informative read.

“In our cultural imagination the perfect mother is a white, middle-class, straight, cisgender, married woman. She announces her pregnancy on social media with a photo in which she’s smiling, draped in a gauzy dress, framing an almost nonexistent bump with her hands, wedding band glinting in the light. We are happy for her. We say, “Congrats,” over and over in the comments. Her hair is perfectly curled. Her husband smiles benignly behind her. She is the modern-day Virgin Mary.”

It’s funny, dark, depressing, hopeful and relevant in this current time. She writes about feminist issues, about women’s bodies, about pro-choice and anti-choice politics, about how men and politicians want to control women in all aspects of their lives. It felt like an “this day and age” Gloria Steinem book.

She writes about non-cis gendered women, writes about how women are supposed to 100% live up to an unreachable standard in all aspects (give birth, go back to work immediately, but DO NOT PUMP! Don’t bother your employer for modifications, but don’t take time off from work, but make sure you lose that baby weight in 2 weeks!). I liked that she was inclusive.

“America scorns a fat mother. In 2019, writer Virginia Sole-Smith reported in a story for New York Times Magazine that fertility clinics will refuse to work with women if they deem their body mass index (BMI) is too high.”

“To become pregnant and to have children is to wade deeper into a world where your body is no longer yours, your body is debated by politicians, your body is manhandled by medical practitioners who won’t listen, your body is a thing people in the Target checkout line and on the school playground and around a holiday table have opinions about.”

“Corporations will penalize you for taking time off. Childcare will be unaffordable. If you’re a white woman with a white smile, ruffly blouse, impossibly clean white jeans, a sign that reads “Live, Laugh, Love” on your wall, and perfect blonde curls cascading down your back (how does she do it, and with a baby?!), strangers will smile at you and tell you you’re blessed. But people will also tell you to use cloth diapers. Or disposable. Whichever one you are using is wrong. Whatever you do is wrong. You are exactly what society has told you to be, and yet, you are still wrong.”

This book will make you laugh, make you rage, make you want to BURN IT ALL DOWN. But I definitely recommend it. Read it. Especially now, when our rights are on the table, again.

(Under His Eye, right?)

4 – American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

This was a compelling, rich story about what the migrant’s story is. It was equal parts horrifying, sad, heartwarming and inspiring. These people are often fleeing horrific, deadly experiences and trying to save their lives or save their family member’s lives by trying to come to America. Immigration is a tough topic right now but reading about these stories and how hard it is to cross, it makes you wonder, perhaps they have earned their spot here?

5- Outsider (Kate Burkholder #12) by Linda Castillo

I really liked this installment in the series. I thought the story was good, the writing was great as usual. I liked that in this book they are taking refuge with the Amish as they hide from the bad guys. It was interesting reading about Kate’s background, too, and how she found law enforcement.

6 – The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Absolutely excellent. I loved the concept. It was relevant to our times. Rachel has a very popular crime podcast. She is on a new case for her podcast season, this time covering a rape trial. Intertwined with this trial is an unsolved murder from 25 years ago. There are small town politics, secrets, and classism. It was a very well done book and I enjoyed it a lot.

7 – When I was You by Amber Garza

“Then I drove to your house, irritated that you were forcing me to stalk you. It was annoying. I wanted to hang out with you in a noncreepy way, but you weren’t allowing it.”

This was a well done thriller. It was creepy, it kept me turning the page. I read 60% of the book in one sitting and then I had to stop to go to sleep because it was just getting too late!

The book reminded me of “You”. The creepy, stalker aspect. Kelly is a middle aged woman, her marriage is dying, she’s suffered some pretty horrible tragedies, and as a result had a mental break. The way the story unfolds is creative, slow and builds the suspense. Then Kelly meets a young mom and befriends her–but some people in Kelly’s life wonder if this new friend is real?

The story takes you in unexpected places and it’s very good. There were some parts towards the end I did not “buy” but overall I enjoyed the ride.

Happy Reading!

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The Dirty Life

(Buy Here)

I recently finished a fantastic book that I wanted to share with you guys. It was “The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love” by Kristin Kimball.

The book is a memoir by Kristin Kimball, a 30-something New Yorker reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw–complete with shallow relationships, couture and New York life. She was a writer who was going to interview a farmer in Amish country (he was not Amish) who was running a farm the old-fashioned way. They fell in love and she left New York to follow him to a rural farm to help him build it up from the ground floor. Literally.

It was a rude awakening for her. She says, “There’s no better cure for snobbiness than a good ass-kicking.” And her ass was kicked. They buy a few cows, some chickens and horses and start building the farm up. Of course there are many set backs and she has no idea what she’s doing, but she learns it along the way.

“Food, a French man told me once, is the first wealth. Grow it right, and you feel insanely rich, no matter what you own.” 

They finally figure it out and get some rhythm to their lives. It’s in no way easy. Crops die. Animals die. They are more tired than they’ve ever been because you know what? Hard, manual labor kicks your ass no matter how young or in shape you may be. Especially when you’re doing it the old-fashioned way (plowing the fields with horses and not machines).

“‎A farm is a manipulative creature. There is no such thing as finished. Work comes in a stream and has no end. There are only the things that must be done now and things that can be done later. The threat the farm has got on you, the one that keeps you running from can until can’t, is this: do it now, or some living thing will wilt or suffer or die. Its blackmail, really.” 

The realities of farm living was sometimes difficult for me to read. I was a vegetarian for 12 years and only recently started eating meat again a few years ago. Despite the fact that I eat meat now, that doesn’t mean it’s EASY for me to know WHERE my food is coming from. And honestly? It’s important that we do know where our food is coming from. It’s so easy to disconnect and just think “food comes from the grocery store” not “this used to be a living creature.” I really struggle with that, and usually choose denial instead. I just can’t deal with the idea of it. That’s my issue. So, there were parts of the book that discussed slaughtering and I skipped those parts because they made my heart hurt.

 “Just a tick past fruition sits decay.”

Part of the book was about their crops. They were going to do a CSA-based farm. CSA is “Community Supported Agriculture” where consumers buy local produce directly from the farmer. The consumers “buy in” a share (membership) of the farm and receive weekly boxes of the produce. It could be anything, really, and from the bloggers I’ve seen that do CSA deliveries it’s often things they have no idea about! The benefits are great for both consumer and farmer: the farmer gets some income to keep the farm running and the consumer gets fresh produce.

In this book, they wanted to do something a little different. They wanted to provide a complete diet in their CSA–they included their homemade milk, butter, butchered meats and fish, in addition to the fruits and veggies, wheat and grains. I think it was a brilliant idea and I wished I could participate in something like that.

I remember the hard work my TINY vegetable garden took last summer and cannot imagine running a farm. It’s definitely a full-time job. The book was good and I enjoyed reading it. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in farming, where their food comes from, and memoirs. Read this!

QUESTION: Have you read this book? Do you participate in CSA models?